Dave Cherman’s 10 Bold Predictions For 2018
(Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire)
It’s that wonderful time of the year when stockings are full of sleepers, predictions, draft tips, and busts, as we eagerly wait for the season to show up. Plenty of staff writers will be giving their Bold Predictions through the next two weeks, with Dave Cherman leading off today.
1. Robinson Chirinos finishes as a Top 5 catcher
Most of my reasoning for this is in my Catcher Draft Guide. Chirinos is going to get 140 starts with 28 HRs 85 RBI and 90 Rs, hitting .270/.350/.510 and make me look like a genius. But actually, if he can sustain his success from the last few months of 2017, he has the potential to put up a stat line in that realm. He won’t sustain it all season, and he’ll suffer ups and downs. But I’ve been big on him since last year and I have a lot of faith in him to continue. It’s far more likely he finishes top 15 and maybe even top 10, but these are bold predictions, right?
2. Carlos Correa puts up the best fantasy season from a SS since 2002 Alex Rodriguez
Just a refresher, for those who forgot, but A-Rod finished second in the MVP voting that season (really? Miguel Tejada?) with a .300/.392/.623 line, 57 HR, 142 RBI, and 127 runs, playing all 162 games. Correa won’t play 162 games- only 5 players did last year (Votto, Hosmer, Galvis, A. Escobar, and Odor), but he played 153 in 2016 and I could see another season close to that. I’m suggesting 160 without a freak injury like last year. How’s he going to reach A-Rod numbers? Well, he’s not too far off actually. Last year, he hit .315/.391/.550, which includes a horrific April. From May 1st on, he hit .336/.411/.601 in 87 games. Scale his counting stats from that date to 160 games and you get 40 HRs, 140 RBI, and 131 runs. He falls short in HRs because Correa just isn’t an A-Rod type power hitter, but he could sell out for power, drop about 20 points from his average and possibly reach 50 HRs. By the way, this is all just scaling out his 2017 season. What if he gets better? He won’t turn 24 until the end of the season and all his xStats are trending in the right direction.
3. Yu Darvish finishes outside the Top 40 starters
Nick and I are going to fight about Darvish all day long and this is honestly a little stronger than even I feel about Darvish, but this is possible. The only two things tethering Darvish to his elite value are his elite stuff and his strikeout potential that comes from it. The problem with his elite stuff is it often doesn’t find the zone. Plain and simple, Darvish is not an elite starter anymore. He posted a 3.86 ERA with a 3.82 FIP and 3.50 bbFIP in 2017; that FIP and bbFIP were good enough for 39th and 23rd among starters. Darvish’s best stat is his ability to get swings and misses, but he wasn’t even amazing at that in 2017, finishing 13th in whiff rate and 19th in K%. To his credit, he improved upon both stats in the second half of the season, but now he moves to a division that is rapidly improving around him. The Brewers are expected to make a push for the NL Central crown and the Cardinals are improving as well. The Cubs are hoping Darvish can throw more strikes- he has only thrown over 60% first pitch strikes once in his career- and be more efficient overall. I don’t think he will be.
4. Brandon Morrow finishes as a Top 5 closer
Raise your hand if you expected Brandon Morrow to become arguably the best setup man in baseball in 2017. That’s what I thought. Now, he goes to the Cubs, and it appears they’re going to let him close, and why not? He threw 43.2 innings (he was called up from AAA in late May) to the tune of a 2.06 ERA, 1.55 FIP, 2.04 bbFIP, 29.4% K rate on a 15.9% whiff rate, a ridiculous 40.2% O-Swing rate, and ZERO home runs. A lot of his success came from his elite 13.9 pVAL fastball- he was part of the velocity revolution with Charlie Morton which breathed life into their careers. He’s 33 years old, but that doesn’t mean he can’t repeat what he did in 2017… except for the home run part. He’ll probably give up a homer at some point. Wade Davis saved 32 games despite putting up generally worse numbers than Morrow; if Morrow can repeat 2017, he can be notably better than Wade Davis was.
5. Greg Bird finishes as a Top 10 first baseman, hinting at Top 5
This is one I really want to be true. Bird’s flight to being the Yankees everyday 1B started off with clear skies, as he filled in for Mark Teixeira to the tune of .261/.343/.529 in 46 games at age 22. Since then, he has experienced some serious turbulence (c’mon Dave’s that’s a plane joke, not a bird joke), missing the entire 2016 season with a torn labrum in his shoulder and most of the 2017 season with a nasty and nagging ankle injury that called into question his desire to even play baseball. But he returned on August 26th and continued his mashing ways- he hit .256/.313/.581 over his remaining 96 PAs and then .244/.426/.512 in 54 postseason PAs. It’s safe to say the Bird is back. He’s not going to hit .300, nor is he going to post a .420 OBP like he did in the postseason, but Bird’s power is absolutely legit. In this bold prediction, I’m saying Bird goes .270/.365/.550 with 37 HRs and 115 RBI hitting cleanup for this Yankee lineup. The Bird is, in fact, the Word.
6. The Giants fail to win 75 games again
I’ve been pretty vocal about disagreeing with just about everything the Giants have and haven’t done over the past year or so. The Giants defensively look like: Posey/Belt/Panik/Crawford/Longoria/Pence/Jackson/McCutchen with a rotation of Bumgarner/Samardzija/Cueto/Blach/Stratton. Say what you will about that lineup, but the rotation is just…. ew. And they traded their entire future, or what was left of it, to get Longo and Cutch. The Giants were 2nd to last in runs, last in HRs, and 23rd in AVG so they’re right to think the lineup needs to improve. But they won 64 games last year. McCutchen and Longo totaled 6.2 fWAR in 2017. Assuming they continue that, that gets them to roughly 70 wins. If we assume Cueto will return to form (he won’t) and earn an extra 3 WAR and Melancon will get back to his form, we get to about 75 wins. A full season from Bumgarner and all other factors maybe gets them to 78-80 wins. I don’t expect that from them. I think they struggle to put it all together and the team falters again. This should’ve been a selling offseason for them. The fact that Bumgarner, Crawford, and Posey remain on their roster to start 2018 is a colossal mistake in my opinion.
7. Fernando Tatis Jr. becomes the most talked about September call up in 2018
To be honest, I don’t even think Tatis will make it to the majors in 2018. The superstar SS reached AA at the end of 2017 while still 18 years old. If he starts the year in San Antonio again, he could force a call-up to El Paso by midseason. The Padres are one of the worst teams in baseball, but they have loyal fans, particularly because those fans have nothing left with the departure of the Chargers to LA last year. The Padres may want to reward those fans in September by giving them something to be excited about- no, not a playoff push- a look at the future. Tatis has the tools to be successful in the immediate future, but we first have to see it in the remaining levels of the minors. It’s unlikely the Padres rush him to the majors at age 19, but I think a cup of coffee to show off what the future might look like isn’t out of the realm of possibility and if he gets the call, he will show off the tools that have scouts raving over a just-turned-19-year-old. What tools are those? He hit .281/.390/.520 in high A. I LOVE that 14.5% walk rate from an 18-year-old; same reason I love Vlad Jr. He also stole 21 HRs and 29 SBs and that’s his ceiling
8. No Yankee hits 40 home runs in 2018
Before you grab your pitchforks, this is coming from a Yankee fan. It’s important to remember Gary Sanchez’s career high is 33 HRs, Aaron Judge has played 1 major league season, and Stanton has only stayed healthy enough to hit 40 HRs once. Greg Bird is good because he likely won’t get to 40 homers, if he can stay healthy for the whole season. I don’t want this to happen, but I can see it happening.
9. Byron Buxton finishes as a Top 5 fantasy OF
NFBC currently has Buxton going as the #15 OF, but there’s a lot of evidence suggesting his ceiling is much higher than that and now is the time for him to reach it. For that to happen, he’s gotta sustain the second half push that Buxton began this past year- .300/.347/.546 with 11 HRs 35 RBI, 40 runs, and 13 SBs over 56 games. If he could do that over 155 games, that looks like 31 HRs, 97 RBI, 111 runs, and 36 SBs. Damn. That’s a cross-category monster that will be drafted in first round of drafts on an annual basis. I don’t know if he can keep this up over a full season, but I’ve been dreaming about this Buxton ever since I traded for him in a keeper league in early 2015.
10. The Mets will have at least 2, if not 3, pitchers throw 200 innings
The craziest and least likely of my predictions. I have absolutely nothing to substantiate this besides a blind belief that the Mets can’t continue to have the worst luck ever. Who am I kidding? Of course they can. In all seriousness, I do see this as possible. Syndergaard and deGrom are the easiest ones to bet on. deGrom has already done it and Syndergaard threw 183.1 in 2016 so 200 isn’t out of the question. Wheeler threw 185.1 in 2014 so theoretically he could get back there and throw a few extra frames. A healthy Steven Matz could get close, but would likely get shut down before hitting 200 frames out of fear that he gets hurt again.